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LID Landscaping

Low Impact Development is a way to manage water on your own site, by allowing the land and plants to slow rainwater down, controlling the quantity and flow of stormwater, soaking it up, and using soil and clean it. Slowing the water down limits erosion and runoff of polluted water, filters it, and keeps water usable onsite. Plants slow the flow of water and increase the permeability of the soil.

Plants are an effective resource. 

The amount of area covered by plants affects the amount of water that will infiltrate the soil.
Greater impervious areas (like roads, roofs, and parking lots) result in greater amounts of water runoff.




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Plants reduce energy and maintenance costs

Shade from trees keeps homes and yards cooler in the summer.

In the winter, Trees and shrubs slow the wind and reduce wind chill. 

Ground covering plants reduce the amount of water evaporating from the soil which therefore requires less water.

Soil effectively covered by plants, shades out weed seeds, so requires less maintenance than landscape with exposed soil.

Plants protect the soil from wind and water erosion and reduce the amount of pollutants that enter our waterways.

Turf grass vs other vegetation

While turf grass is better than pavement at allowing water to infiltrate into the soil, research has demonstrated that areas covered with turf grass control much less water than other vegetation. Therefore, in keeping with the goals of nonstructural LID s, the amount of lawns and other grass areas at land development sites should be minimized. The use of plants can provide a low-maintenance alternative to turf grass, resulting in lower fertilizer and water needs. The use of native ground cover, shrubs, and trees instead of turf grass can create infiltration characteristics similar to those of natural areas. 

Consider reducing the size of excessive lawns. Changes can be made gradually over several seasons.

An easy way to start is by expanding areas already established with shrubs and trees. 

Expand the width and include ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds, and/ or tiered shrub plantings.

Convert areas that are difficult to mow, such as corners, edges, and under trees.

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Hedgerow, Filter strip, or Vegetated buffer 

Vegetated areas provide a pervious surface for groundwater recharge and can remove pollutants from the runoff flowing through it. Installing or maintaining a strip of plants at the edge of an area, whose purpose is to slow surface water runoff, to assist in infiltration, and prevent soil erosion is an effective and easy way to maintain a healthy landscape.

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A rain garden is a landscaped depression in the land, with soil designed to help rainwater runoff from a roof, driveway or other impervious surfaces to soak into the ground and filtered.

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There are many ways plants can be effectively used in the landscape, but plant selection and proper planting and care are vital.

Select plants. Include native plant species that provide food and habitat for wildlife and insect pollinators. Native plants are naturally adapted to local growing conditions. They require less water, fertilizer, and maintenance. Native plants are also known to be very effective in managing storm water because many species have deep root systems which stabilize soil and facilitate the infiltration of storm water runoff. These plants evolved and adapted to the local climate and growing conditions. Adding even just a few native plants to your landscape can go a long way towards supporting wildlife.

Select a mix of plants with different foliage, texture, and flowers that bloom at different times for season. 

New plantings require extra care during the first 1-3 years. 

Make sure new plants receive a deep watering 1 or 2 times per week for the first several months and then at least once per week for the first year.

Good maintenance while the garden is becoming established is important. Pull weeds while they're young, before they've gone to seed. Replace any dead plants to fill in holes. A full coverage of plants, like mulch, helps maintain soil moisture, prevent erosion, and reduce weeds.

Once native plants are established, they need little maintenance to perform well and look good. 

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LID Landscape Tips

  • Use the shape of the land and the availability of light and water to shape your design.

  • When you're designing a landscape, keep planting zones in mind. 

  • Group plants together that all have the same moisture and light requirements.  

  • Make sure plants that require a lot of water are near a water source. (Sometimes that means a hose or rain catchment)

  • Make sure that plants that require more of your attention are easily accessible

  • Consider the mature size of a plant.  Make sure they have room to grow and make sure that plants that require more sun are not planted next to a plant that will grow up and shade them out.​

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The more bare ground in your garden, the more you will be fighting invasions of weeds.

Keep the soil covered by plants or adding mulch.  It will greatly reduce the amount of water transpiration, soil erosion, and weeds that will germinate in your garden, 

  • Choose a variety of plants, including shrubs, flowers and grasses, to create variety in color, height and texture.

  • Consider the year-round look of your rain garden – clumping grasses will hold their shape throughout the winter, and many types of shrubs develop striking red branches in the colder months.

  • Consider your home’s existing landscape, and the landscaping of the surrounding neighborhood.

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If the garden is near the road, consider sight lines and setbacks

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Edging (such as pavers, stones, etc.) can facilitate access for maintenance and provide separation from lawn and other landscaped areas.

To maintain access to the middle of the garden for weeding and other tasks. A few strategically placed flat rocks or pavers can allow access without compacting the soil or leaving room for weeds.

The preservation of existing natural vegetated areas is a nonstructural LID-BMP that should be considered

throughout the design of a land development.  Ideally, the more natural area to be preserved, the better.


Using plants as a nonstructural LID technique can significantly reduce the impact of rainwater.  

Vegetated areas provide a pervious surface for groundwater recharge, particularly during dormant or non-growing seasons. In addition, vegetation can remove pollutants from the runoff flowing through it.

Vegetative filters and buffers can be created by preserving existing vegetated areas over which runoff will flow or by planting new vegetation.

Vegetative filters located immediately downstream of impervious surfaces such as roadways and parking lots can achieve pollutant removal, groundwater recharge, and runoff volume reduction.

Vegetated buffers adjacent to streams, creeks, and other waterways and water bodies can also help mitigate thermal runoff impacts, provide wildlife habitat, and increase site aesthetics.

Plant and Landscape Resources

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